7 Critical Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing Your TEFL Class

Choosing the right TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification class will play a critical role in providing you with the training, qualifications and job placement assistance you need to get hired to teach English abroad.

To avoid putting a serious crimp in realizing your goals of living and teaching English overseas, here are 7­ critical mistakes to avoid.

1. Taking a Class that is Not Accredited & Does Not Meet International Standards

Some training is better than no training but if you want to earn a TEFL certification that provides you with the training you need to become a quality teacher with a recognized qualification that thousands of employers around the world seek, then you need to make sure that you take a class that meets at least the following criteria:

  • 100 hours of academic coursework and training (equal to a full-time, intensive 4-week in-person course, or the equivalent part-time or online);
  • 6-20 Hours of live practice teaching (practicum) to actual ESL students (not role-playing with other teachers-in-training;
  • Employs a curriculum accredited by a recognized, independent body within the field;
  • Instruction is provided by a highly qualified, university-level instructor.

These standards are recognized by language schools and other institutions that employ foreign English teachers as well as major bodies within the field.

Two-day weekend courses, two week classes, self-taught online classes with no live practice teaching – none of these meet the international standards and taking such classes, may help you get some jobs in some countries, but not will qualify you for the lion’s share of quality teaching jobs around the globe.

To learn more about accreditation and international standards for TEFL Certification, read What is Accreditation for TEFL Certification Really All About?

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2. Taking a TEFL Class with No Live Practice Teaching (Practicum)

Taking a class that incorporates live practice teaching with actual ESL students is critical for two reasons:

  • First, it will provide you experience working with actual ESL students and this is critical for gaining the skills and comfort level you need to become a successful teacher. 

  • Second, thousands of language schools around the world do not recognize TEFL certifications that do not incorporate a practicum.

A practicum should incorporate practice teaching and observation in a live setting with actual ESL students who are learning English as a second language.  While role-playing with other teachers-in-training can be valuable, it is no substitute for practice teaching with actual ESL students.

3. Going Cheap (really cheap) and Taking a $69 Course You Found on Groupon

Really?! Do you think you can actually gain a recognized certification to teach English professionally in Germany, Japan or Dubai or that you will receive the job placement assistance you need to get a job in Chile or South Korea by taking a cheap class from a discount website that incorporates no live practice teaching?  

Ask yourself, how can a university level class cost less than a textbook? 

Groupon gets 50% of the fee so the TEFL school is making $34.50.  How can a university professor be paid on that? How can there be someone to advise you on finding jobs on that fee? The math doesn't add up. 

Again, certainly some training is better than no training, but TEFL classes are like anything else in that you will get what you pay for and if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Taking the right TEFL course is crucial is you want to give yourself the best opportunities to go abroad to teach English and enjoy the international adventure of a lifetime.  Moving to another country to live and work is not a light decision and it’s simply not worth skimping on critical parts of the process just to save several hundreds of dollars here and there.
Compared to studying abroad for a semester (typically costs at least $3000 - $5000 per semester), or even going to vacation in Europe for a couple of weeks (also typically costing $2000 - $5000 at least), investing $1200-$2000 for a quality TEFL certification that will enable you to get paid to live, work and get paid in foreign countries like China, Spain and Argentina for a year or more is the bargain of the century. 

Article to read: 5 Key Tips to Help You Pick the Right TEFL Certification Course (and Not Get Ripped Off) 

4. Assuming That You Need to Take an In-person Course rather than an Online Course


Some will assume that TEFL certification classes taken in-person are automatically better or more valid than any online TEFL class, this is simply not the case.  Online TEFL classes that meet international standards (incorporating 100 hours of coursework, 6 hours of live practicum, accredited curriculum, university level professors, etc.) can and will provide you with the level of certification you need to gain the skills and qualification required for you to qualify for thousands of teaching opportunities around the world.  

At International TEFL Academy, we train and certify 3,500 people a year and 70% of our graduates take their TEFL course online. Those graduates go on to gain employment in top job markets around the world from Spain, Germany and Chile, to Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea. 

On the flip side there are plenty of onsite in-person classes that do not meet international standards and will not provide you with the level of certification and training you need to gain employment. Whether you take your class in-person or online, the key is to make sure that it meets the aforementioned criteria for an accredited TEFL certification course.

To learn more, please read Is ITA's Online TEFL Certification Course Valid and Accredited? 

Get your country comparison chart for teaching English abroad

5. Signing Up for a TEFL Class that Does Not Include Adequate Job Placement Assistance

You can take the best TEFL class in the world, or even get a PhD in teaching English as a foreign language, but if you are not provided with the guidance, resources and contacts you need to actually find jobs and navigate the interviewing process, your job search process will be very difficult and you risk not being able to get hired where you want to teach.  

Hiring seasons, interview procedures, and visa regulations are all matters that you will need guidance for, in addition to access to job listings, referrals to top recruiters and contact information for schools.  You should be able to work with a qualified advisor who will be there to pick up the phone to assist you with questions, give you tips for getting hired, and even personal guidance with your resume and cover letter.   

At International TEFL Academy, we receive more than 2,000 calls and emails each year from people who have already taken a TEFL certification course, but who are looking for job placement assistance. This is because the school that trained them did not provide them with the resources and guidance they needed to get a job teaching English abroad and now they need help.

Don’t let this happen to you!

Read more about Job Search Guidance at International TEFL Academy 

6. Signing Up for TEFL Course Without Speaking to a Representative of that Training School First

If you’re going to invest your time, money and dreams of living and teaching English abroad in a TEFL course, you owe it to yourself to call the training school offering the course and making sure that they know their stuff and that their courses are going to provide you with the training, qualification and job placement assistance you need to get hired as an English teacher abroad.

Critical questions include:

  • Does your TEFL course meet international standards and is it accredited – if so, by whom?
  • Who teaches your courses and do they include a practicum?
  • What is the level of job placement that is provided and what resources and personal assistance is provided?

You should also ask about job markets and the process of getting hired once you have taken a TEFL class:

  • “Where can I teach with this certification given my personal background?” 
  • “If I want to teach English in Spain, China, or Argentina, what is the process?” 
  • “What is a realistic estimate of start-up costs be aside from my TEFL to teach in different countries?” 
  • "What’s the deal with visas and hiring seasons?” 

If a TEFL training organization cannot answer these questions over the phone or in person in a manner that inspires confidence, then you don’t need to waste your time or money taking their TEFL course. They are not going to provide you with the level of service and guidance that you need to actually get a job in Spain, Thailand or wherever else it is that you might be interested in teaching English abroad.

To learn more, read Why You Need to Speak with a Professional TEFL Admission Advisors if You Want to Teach English Abroad (and do it right).

Also, check out 10 Questions You Need to Ask Any TEFL School Before Enrolling in a TEFL Class

7. Assuming that all TEFL classes and TEFL training schools are the same (and then signing up for the wrong course!)

There are a wide variety of different TEFL training organizations and programs that you may encounter while researching online – don’t assume that they are all the same organization or that they all offer the same courses or provide the same services just because they have the word “TEFL” or “TESOL” in the name. And, if you plan to enroll online for a particular course, make sure that you sign up for the right course on the right website with the program that you intended!

If you have any questions, call the organization you intend to enroll with and ask for a representative to enroll you over the phone or to guide through the registration process. Of course, this provides you with an opportunity to go over any remaining questions you have regarding your TEFL course and teaching English abroad.


Want to Learn More about TEFL Certification & Teaching English Abroad?

Request a free brochure or call 773-634-9900 to speak with an expert advisor about all aspects of TEFL certification and teaching English abroad, including the hiring process, salaries, visas, TEFL class options, job placement assistance and more.

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